In the middle of God Encounter Weekend

We are in day two of our God Encounter Weekend. I am about to teach the session on Sexual Purity, Breaking Unhealthy Bonds.

With a lawn mower buzzing outside and my spirit buzzing inside, this one session is one of the most heart breaking to go through. Why? Because when I look into the girls eyes and see their souls ravaged by rape, incest, the lies told by boys who wanted oral sex or more and the lies they believe about themselves because of it, my heart is broken for them.

You just don’t knew what someone has been through. The stories they tell no one. The secrets they keep. I am always honored to be trusted and so thankful that God opens up these old festering wounds to heal them. And he does. If he opens it up, he heals it up and begins the process to wholeness.

The freedom that was paid for on the Cross, is being applied in this room and I am so thankful to be apart of it.

I get to bring the truth, show the truth, pray that the truth shatters all the lies and bondage each young woman walks in with so that they can walk out in freedom.

I love God Encounter Weekends.

The bad news, the good news

Today’s bad news: There is a cold that is chasing me down and trying to catch me. Ugh.
The good news is I have rested a lot in the last two days and am trying to take care of myself.

The bad news is I am going to speak 5 messages in the next two days- pray for me.

The good news is that this is a God Encounter Weekend, not a Cindy Encounter Weekend. When we make room for God, He always shows up. Mostly, I try to get out of the way anyway.

I wrote the following yesterday as I was getting ready and praying for this God Encounter Weekend. I know a couple of the teenagers that are coming are deeply wounded and just starting to accept God’s healing touch – this weekend is going to be pivotal for them. I wrote this with them in mind:

The bad news is that you are broken.
The good news is that you don’t have to stay that way.

The bad news is you have been hurt, taken advantage of, violated, victimized and that you have done this to others as well.

The good news is that you can be healed, remade, created anew, have victory and can be free from your past. Even if that past was yesterday, last week, last month.

The bad news is that healing is a process and it’s not easy.
Just like the recovery takes longer than the surgery,
So your healing takes longer that the sin that cuts you so deep.

The good news is you don’t go through it alone.

The bad news is that you are human and so is everyone else that lives on this planet. Sin happens.

The good news is there is a Savior, who was fully human and is fully divine. Fully able to understand. Fully able to redeem.

The bad news is your broken.
The good news is that I’m about to introduce you to the Healer.

God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 MSG)

Thank You, Jesus.

Better in the dark… I don’t think so

A line from a song I heard on the radio this morning:

“Girl, your beautiful and I hope you take this the wrong way but you look better with the lights off”

From “Better with the lights off”
By New boys/ Chris B

Are you serious?

I dropped the boys off at schools and on the two minute ride back home tuned to a Top 20 radio station to see what is new. I like to try to keep a pulse on what the teens are listening to and half the time I like the music myself. I find a good workout song or two. The other half of the time, I am appalled and horrified at the message of the songs. It was a appalling morning.

The song right before it was talking about wanting a “bad girl” and “wanting it so bad- just can’t wait, I. Don’t want something invisible, I want something physical.”

Then after that catchy song, this diamond. Good Lord. I understand that the most popular thing to sing about is sex. It sells. I like a good love song and being happily married, I enjoy, um..marriage. But I know the difference between intimacy with my mate and the crap that is in most club songs.

I do, however, think there is a truth about our culture that is being sung here:

“wanting it so bad- just can’t wait, I. Don’t want something invisible, I want something physical.”

This is the cry of the culture. Teenagers (and adults) want to feel loved and sex seems like the closest thing to it. Sexual intimacy is an expression of love, but it isn’t love. Too many find out the hard way that it is no substitute for love, sex itself doesn’t fill the void – it only adds to it. Even our best try at loving each other falls so short of meeting the need of our soul, because we are broken beings, faulty humans. This need can only be meet by God. When your soul is flourishing in that love, sexual intimacy is a gift, a bonding, the glue that binds two for life.

Since most of my time is spent working with 12-18 year olds and trying to guide them through the sexual gauntlet that is our culture, songs like these tick me off.

It ticks me off for the girls who already feel inferior to the “image of perfection” that isn’t even real promoted by music, magazine and movies. Girls that are made to be loved and for them bad love is better than no love. And hearing these words is so tempting.

It ticks me off for the boys who become predators instead of protectors and who so easily fall into the lies that this is how to get love. Because boys are made to be loved too. And hearing these words is so tempting.

Tempting to believe they are true.

If we do not stand up and shout the truth about love, our culture will tell them: it is how you look on the outside and to really feel loved get in the dark.

So, what is the truth? You are loved. You are created to be loved by God. It isn’t how you look on the outside or even how others see you. Being beautiful is a product of being well loved not a way to get love. The dark is a place to hide and pretend. The light is the place to rise and shine.

This weekend we are doing a God Encounter with our teens. We will have about 20 of them who are taking time out of their culture to really look at who God is and what His plan is for sin, sex, inner healing, forgiveness, body image and wholeness. Pray for us. Pray that the darkness is destroyed by the light and God’s incomparable love shatters the lies and “lines” of our current culture.

Pray that we continue to:

Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping. (1 Corinthians 16:13, 14 MSG)

The great enabler…

I sat down and listened to myself preach the “Masterpiece” the night before last. I uploaded it on my website and wanted to make sure it all worked. Here is the link for those who want to have a listen:

http://www.cindygrasso.com/Cindy_Grasso/Audio_Messages.html

It is weird for me to hear my own voice. However, after about a minute I forget it is me and just listen. One of the things I don’t remember saying, but loved was: “I like a good plan- of course, since I do, I often have to surrender that plan to God because He has a better one” (or something like that).

This morning in my quiet time, I came across this little nugget of wisdom:

We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.
(Proverbs 16:9 MSG)

I think we all know how we want to live. We can see it in our minds eye and vaguely know the “feeling” of what we want it to be. This is what marketers and advertisers count on. They set up scenarios and products in a ” If you do this, you will feel this” type of thing. Buy this product and it will make your life easier. Buy this product and you will be happier, healthier, and better looking. But products without purpose are empty and possessing good looks on the outside means little to the condition of your soul.

Even without any outside influence, I think we know the life we want to live. We know we want to be filled with joy and purpose. We know we want to be healthy. We know we want to love and be loved in return.

Thus, we make a plan. But the problem is, we don’t have a clue what we are doing. We don’t know what will actually make us happy and fulfilled. We don’t know how to be healthy. We don’t really know how give love and receive it back. We try. We give what we have and live what we know. Then we get upset it just doesn’t work. You can have it all – all the ingredients to make a “good life” but are unable to actually live it.

Why? Because you were made to be in relationship with the divine. Connected to the source. In communication with your creator. And with God- all things are possible.

It is possible to live the life you were created to live but only when you are enabled by God. With God you can experience joy as He directs you in your purpose. With God, you can learn to walk health- physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. With God, you can unlearn your way to love and relearn His way. With God, your splintered heart can be mended and healed to receive all the wonderful love sent your way.

He is your great enabler.
So go ahead- take a walk with God and live your abundant life.

On a side note: I love you and am so very thankful for you!

Tonight I am speaking…

Tonight I am speaking the Women’s Ministry Tea at Thrive Church in Elk Grove, Ca. I am excited, prayerful, hopeful and nervous. I always get nervous when I speak- every time. If I don’t, then I am nervous that I am not nervous and that makes me nervous. However, nerves don’t ever stop me from speaking, on the contrary, it enhance my awareness that I am in need of God and that I am there to give them his heart, not my own.

Tonight I am going to talk about being God’s Masterpiece. The verse is Ephesians 2:10 (NLT):

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

(Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

Years ago before my children were born and we were working in Phoenix with Pastor Lloyd Zeigler, I had put this verse up on the refrigerator but in the amplified version:

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated
in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined
(planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we
should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

By day we worked with the ministry of Master’s Commission at Phoenix First Assembly and by night we ran a paper route. We were living in a staff house, Bobby was traveling with ministry teams, I was working in the office. I was desperately wanting to have a baby and was feeling left out as well as possibly forgotten.

This verse reminded me that I was not forgotten, I was planned for. That I was not just wandering around in life, but could walk in the way God himself prepared for me. That God had a plan for me to live ” the good life”, even in the moments it didn’t feel good at all.

For some people “the good life” means money, vacations, stuff and financial security. God knows that those things come and go, can be found and lost, worked for and taken.

Circumstances do not dictate the “good life” in God’s eyes. You do. It is you. To God, having a relationship with you that is the good life. Walking with you, reminding you that you are created to love not hate, forgive not hold on to offense, live in quiet strength instead of loud weakness. Being connected to the creator with an unclogged line of communication. Opening your heart and allowing Him to work through you to do the good work he created you for. This is the good life.

The day is going by so fast. In just a few hours I will be speaking to the ladies in Elk Grove. Pray for me.

The Day After Easter

The day after Easter has always meant one thing for my family: utter exhaustion. In the beginning years of my marriage, it was recovering from pulling off a big drama, production,outreach, etc… It was always satisfying to see the months and weeks of work come together to create something powerful for people to be involved in and experience. I was always amazed and thankful at how many people began their relationship with God on Easter Morning. Although things have changed some since we moved to California, this day after Easter we are still exhausted. We didn’t do a big production this year but instead took our Spring Break in Las Vegas and ministered all week there. It was wonderful to visit and see familiar places and precious faces. We took 12 of our youth students with us and for the first three days ministered to inner-city children with a day camp and then homeless in the afternoon. I, of course, spent my first two days in the dentist office but that is a blog for another day. Oy. On Wed & Thurs we did a “God Encounter” with the teenagers. Counting our 10, we had almost 50 teens go through this intense discipleship seminar. I love “God Encounter.” I love seeing God reach in and touch young people’s hearts in ways they never expected. I’ve seen “God Encounter” do things in young people’s hearts that no convention or camp ever has.

On Friday most of our team left for Cali, but me and my family stayed a few hours longer. I was blessed with an opportunity to preach the Good Friday Service at 12pm. I preached “The Cross” portion of God Encounter as it is a step by step description of what the cross is and what God did through it. I think this was one of the first times my kids sat through one. Afterward, Justin’s face was lit up and he said into my ear, “Mom, that was so good even I got the point!”. I hugged and kissed him and told him that it was just for him. Of all the people in the room, for me, he is the most important one to hear and understand that message. All the way home, the boys peppered me with questions. Justin wants to know if we can go to Israel someday and see the place Jesus lived, died and rose again. Kyle wanted to know why the guards would whip Jesus with a “cat with nine tails”. I had to explain that it was called the “Cat of Nine Tails” and was a whip with many leather strips that had bits of metal, glass and rocks woven in it. He said, “oh, that makes more sense”. I don’t think I’ll ever preach that part again without picturing it the way my nine year old did, for a second anyway.

There were so many wonderful moments of the week, shared with amazing new friends and some very treasured old friends. I don’t know if I will write them down here or not. You know who you are and I am thankful for each and every one.

I feel like I am babbling, lol. I am tired. The drive home seemed to take forever. We ended up stopping in Manteca on Friday Night and then driving home Sat. morning. We drove back down to Manteca for the family Easter dinner yesterday, which I love. I felt kind of like a zombie but soaked in every element of the day: impatient kids waiting for the egg hunt, pretty little girls in pretty dresses, the aroma of delicious food, listening to Bobby and Josh crack each other up at the table. Talking loudly to great grandmothers and holding crying babies. Eating too much dessert while listening to men tell fishing stories. Knowing that family isn’t just who you are related to, but who you love.

I’m tired but it is good tired. Of course, I say that now because the house is quiet and I am about to go back to bed.

Happy day after Easter.

May your energy return with abundance and your enthusiasm for life soar.

Vegas, Day Two & Three

Really there are too many words to write, so many moments to catch and hold on to. I’m having a hard time trying to figure out where to start. I’m sitting in rehearsal for the Easter Play, listening to “My Redeemer Lives”. We are almost done here.

The team just got back from ministering to the homeless at the Dream Center. They are exhausted with smiles on their faces.

Last night was amazing. I was like a mom at Christmas who had all here kids under one roof. They worshiped wholeheartedly. The lights went out and they kept worshipping and jumping and lifting their hands and voices. Who needs lights to worship? Bobby preached this amazing message called ” Indescribable”. My favorite part of last night (besides seeing all my old youth kids) was that after the service, there were no longer two groups- there was only one. They talked, played and hung out until we turned off the lights and kicked them out.

Today I got to see my friends, spend time that was like a gift. I am so blessed and so glad that God made our hearts with the ability to love all the wonderful people he brings into our lives and that there is always room to love more. To treasure my friends that I’ve known for years and to love my new friends that I have only known a few months.

One more day in Vegas…

Vegas Day One

In the midst of a plethora of emotions,the first day of this Vegas Missions Trip was wonderful and long. Feelings of Deja Vu, personal world’s colliding, the euphoria of seeing old friends, the security of knowing where everything is and the excitement of introducing new eyes to the city sights, churned and swirled all day.

Favorite moments:
Breakfast and then prayer & worship with the team.

Seeing and hugging people I haven’t seen for 8 months.

Rereading the Easter Play I wrote last year ( called “I Am”) and crying because it is good.

Working with the cast and feeling God’s presence as we went over the scenes together.

Seeing the exhausted but excited faces of our team after they’d spent the day with inner city kids.

Going to Serendipity for Ice Cream with Rhonda for her Birthday.

Hearing testimonies of what God is doing in peoples lives.

Getting into the Word to prepare for Team Devotions.

Realizing how much can change in less than a year and being in awe at God’s faithfulness.

More to come….